CREATIVITY – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


I personally enjoy this book very much. Even though there were a number of long interviewing pages that did discourage me, I could dive into the profound information related to creativity – the path that I am pursuing. I don’t know if it’s objective enough, nevertheless, it’s valuable and definitely worth the time.

Chapter One

But even without success, creative persons find joy in a job well done. Learning for its own sake is rewarding even if it fails to result in a public discovery.

In fact, creative people are neither single-minded, specialized, nor selfish. Indeed, they seem to be the opposite: They love to make connections with adjacent areas of knowledge.

Creativity is one answer to that question: It provides one of the most exciting models for living.

Chapter Two

creativity does not happen inside people’s heads, but in the interaction between a person’s thoughts and a sociocultural context. It is a systemic rather than an individual phenomenon.

But the systems model recognizes the fact that creativity cannot be separated from its recognition.

Literary reputations are constantly shifting. Sometimes in trifling, frivolous ways.

It has been often remarked that superior ability in some domains—such as mathematics or music—shows itself earlier in life than in other domains—such as painting or philosophy. Similarly, it has been suggested that the most creative performances in some domains are the work of young people, while in other domains older persons have the edge. The most creative lyric verse is believed to be that written by the young, while epics tend to be written by more mature poets. Mathematical genius peaks in the twenties, physics in the thirties, but great philosophical works are usually achieved later in life.

Chapter Three

Are there then no traits that distinguish creative people? If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it would be complexity.

1. Creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest. They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm.

One manifestation of energy is sexuality. Creative people are paradoxical in this respect also. They

Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time. How smart they actually are is open to question.

Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other. Both are needed to break away from the present without losing touch with the past.

Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.

In all cultures, men are brought up to be “masculine” and to disregard and repress those aspects of their temperament that the culture regards as “feminine,” whereas women are expected to do the opposite. Creative individuals to a certain extent escape this rigid gender role stereotyping.

Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent.

Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.

Finally, the openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.

Chapter Five

The self expands through acts of self-forgetfulness.

Success is not one of my motives. Because success stands in contrast to failure. But no worthwhile effort in one’s life is either a success or a failure. What do you mean by success? You take a problem and you want to solve it. Well, if you solve it, in a limited sense it is a success. But it may be a trivial problem. So a judgment about success is not something about which I’ve ever been serious about in any sense whatever.

Chapter Six

Life-threatening conditions, like the beauties of nature, push the mind to think about what is essential. Other things being equal, however, it would seem that a serene landscape is a preferable source of inspiration.

Most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating, and working, and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise. They wear clothes that are comfortable, they interact only with people they find congenial, they do only things they think are important.

Chapter Seven

Children can show tremendous talent, but they cannot be creative because creativity involves changing a way of doing things, or a way of thinking, and that in turn requires having mastered the old ways of doing or thinking.

In none of these fields could you be ultimately successful if you were not truthful, if you distorted the evidence, either consciously or unconsciously, for your own advantage.

Youths with special talents also tend to be less sexually aware and less independent from their families than the norm. This is an important factor in their development, because it means that they spend relatively more time in the protected, playful stages of life in which experimentation and learning are easier to achieve.

Chapter Nine

Spirituality, to me, means the nonmaterial things. I don’t want to give the idea that it’s something mystical; I want it to apply to ordinary people’s ordinary lives: things like love, and helpfulness, and tolerance, and enjoyment of the arts or even creativity in the arts. I think that creativity in the arts is very special. It takes a high degree and a high type of spirituality to want to express things in terms of literature or poetry, plays, architecture, gardens, creating beauty any way. And if you can’t create beauty, at least it’s good to appreciate beauty and get some enjoyment and inspiration out of it. So it’s just things that aren’t totally materialistic. And that would include religion.

Perhaps the universe is there only because we are conscious of it.

Chapter Ten

But more important, the written word allows us to understand better what is happening within ourselves. In recording real or imaginary events, the writer arrests the evanescent stream of experience by naming its aspects and making them enduring in language. Then by reading and repeating a verse or passage of prose, we can savor the images and their meanings and thus understand more accurately how we feel and what we think. Fragile thoughts and feelings are transformed by words into concrete thoughts and emotions. In this sense, poetry and literature allow the creation of experiences that we would otherwise not have access to; they take our lives to higher levels of complexity.

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So the choice of words, the construction of images and stories, is as important for the writer as the content of the message.

Chapter Eleven

This tendency to take one’s dreams and hunches seriously and to see patterns where others see meaningless confusion is clearly one of the most important traits that separates creative individuals from otherwise equally competent peers. Of course, this fluidity of thought results in something creative only if one has already internalized the rules of a domain.

Chapter Twelve

“The bright shaft of longing love that goes into the cloud of unknowing, reaching out to unimaginably distant horizons of creation. And having it inside yourself.”

Chapter Thirteen

But biological inheritance is only part of the story, as we discussed before. Early background has a significant effect. Interest and curiosity tend to be stimulated by positive experiences with family, by a supportive emotional environment, by a rich cultural heritage, by exposure to many opportunities, and by high expectations. In contrast, perseverance seems to develop as a response to a precarious emotional environment, a dysfunctional family, solitude, a feeling of rejection and marginality.

Chapter Fourteen

Even though personal creativity may not lead to fame and fortune, it can do something that from the individual’s point of view is even more important: make day-to-day experiences more vivid, more enjoyable, more rewarding. When we live creatively, boredom is banished and every moment holds the promise of a fresh discovery. Whether or not these discoveries enrich the world beyond our personal lives, living creatively links us with the process of evolution.

When everything a person sees, thinks, or does must serve self-interest, there is no attention left over to learn about anything else.

And it is equally difficult when a person is rich and famous but devotes all of his or her energies to getting more money and fame.

Try to be surprised by something every day.

Try to surprise at least one person every day.

Write down each day what surprised you and how you surprised others.

When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.

Evolution appears to favor organisms that are complex; that is, differentiated and integrated at the same time.

The competition among new memes is fierce; few survive by being noticed, selected, and added to the culture. Luck has a huge hand in deciding whose c is capitalized. But if you don’t learn to be creative in your personal life, the chances of contributing to the culture drop even closer to zero. And what really matters, in the last account, is not whether your name has been attached to a recognized discovery, but whether you have lived a full and creative life.

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